The Man who Fed on Weakness

margot08:23 Monday 16th June 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: It’s a big night for Peterborough tonight. The City Council will appoint a Leader of the Council at its AGM tonight. The Leadership has been up in the air since those local elections in May, where the ruling Conservative group forfeited overall control after losing seats to UKIP. Speaking after the results, Conservative councillor for Eye and Thorney David Sanders called on the Tory Leader Marco Cereste to resign.
(TAPE)
DAVID SANDERS: It leaves the Conservatives very vulnerable indeed. I believe that at this stage Marco should consider his position and do the honourable thing and resign, and allow a new leader with new vision, new ideas, new focus and vision, and take the Council and Conservatives forward.
(LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Councillor Cereste reacted angrily to suggestions he should step aside. He told this show that he’d carry on as Leader, and the city would crumble to the ground if the Tories weren’t in charge. Here he is speaking to Chris Mann last week.
(TAPE)

MARCO CERESTE: No. Absolutely not. .. we are the only party in the country that is offering a referendum on Europe. We understand the message very well. We respect the voters’ views. And we will be working .. we will be working to make sure that we listen ..
CHRIS MANN: We’re talking about Peterborough City Council, not what’s happening in Europe, and the fact that you’ve lost overall control.
MARCO CERESTE: No. No. I disagree. No. No. No.
CHRIS MANN: Is that not a vote about you Marco?
MARCO CERESTE: Listen. Listen. If you want me to continue speaking to you, then you must let me speak. If you want to listen to yourself, you don’t need me on the other end of the telephone.
(LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well Marco Cereste later apologised for his comments, saying he didn’t do well in the interview, and came across as very defensive. But the Italian was boosted by a show of support when he was re-elected by his party as the Group Leader. Since then, the other parties have been making their thoughts known. The first to act was the Peterborough Independent Forum. They’ve submitted a motion that their Leader David Harrington should take control of the Council. But it was later shocked when we exclusively revealed that both the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party would be giving their support, one way or another, to the Conservatives and councillor Cereste.
(TAPE)
DAVID HARRINGTON: I’m appalled by it really. A Leader of a group to admit defeat before they’ve even set into battle, you can’t think why they would do that. To put themselves in a position of weakness before they even start. Because let’s be frank. If we allow the present leadership to remain in office, they will keep calling the shots.
(LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: So the AGM tonight will start with the first motion, should Marco Cereste be the Leader of Peterborough City Council. We’re expecting that motion to be passed, and the Conservatives will announce their Cabinet for the next year. If Marco is defeated, then a similar question will be asked about David Harrington the Independent. If that’s also rejected we have a stalemate, with Chief Executive Gillian Beasley acting as the referee, and possibly even acting as the Leader for a week so that further negotiations can take place between the different parties. There will also be a vote on whether the Council should explore the possibility of adopting the committee system, which has of course already been adopted by Cambridgeshire County Council. .. Will Peterborough City Council have a new Leader? We don’t think so, but it’s politics in Peterborough. You never know.

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Harrington on Cereste

07:25 Wednesday 11th June 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Let’s speak to David Harrington. David good morning.
DAVID HARRINGTON: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s your reaction to what Ben has just said?
DAVID HARRINGTON: Well obviously you can never be surprised by what’s going to happen in Full Council. It’s always a mystery to what will actually turn out on the night. But I just want to make it quite clear this is not a Leadership contest just for the sake of replacing Marco with another Leader. This is to make sure that we move forward to a committee system at the earliest opportunity. And I would rather defend my position now, ahead of the game, rather than wait after the event and try and justify why I didn’t take the opportunity when it arose.
PAUL STAINTON: So unlike Labour and the LibDems, you’ve moaned, you’ve groaned, rightly or wrongly. You’re putting up.
DAVID HARRINGTON: I want to make it perfectly clear Paul to the people of Peterborough that I’ve done all I possibly can to try and remove this present administration, and replace it with a committee system, before I consider going behind closed doors to the other groups with a wish-list and try and cut any deals. If we as an opposition group are beckoned into a room, which we will be, with the present Leader, there will only be one winner emerge, and that’s councillor Cereste. He feeds on weakness, and he will have a great delight in telling everyone he’s convinced all the Opposition groups that he’s the only person capable of running this council. Well if that happens, it will be a sad day for democracy within Peterborough Council.
PAUL STAINTON: Why do you think you can do a better job than Marco Cereste?
DAVID HARRINGTON: I’m not saying that I can do any better or worse. This is spurious to the fact that what I’m trying to do Paul is remove the present administration. The only way we can move forward to the committee system, and there is a lot of support within all the groups to move to a committee system, we cannot do that effectively with the present Leader and the Cabinet system in place. To do that we have to remove that leadership and the Cabinet and replace it with an interim leadership. There is no gap. That is as the constitution stands. You have to replace the Leader immediately. Now all I am suggesting, and not saying that I particularly should take the reins, but it’s an opportunity for all groups to say, well we actually think this. It could be a Leader from the present ruling group, the Conservatives. I’ve always said we need to talk to the Conservatives. They’re the largest group.
PAUL STAINTON: But there won’t be a new Leader will there? You’re a dead duck. Labour and the LibDems are not going to vote with you. What do you make of their behaviour?
DAVID HARRINGTON: That’s their decision.
PAUL STAINTON: What do you make of that though, politically?
DAVID HARRINGTON: I’m appalled by it really. A Leader of a group to admit defeat before they’ve even set into battle, you can’t think why they would do that. To put themselves in a position of weakness before they even start. Because let’s be frank, if we allow the present leadership to remain in office, they will keep calling the shots. Now I know there’s another motion tabled looking across party, looking at the aspect of returning to the committee system and the advantages of it. But that will be led by the present administration, and believe you me, however we think that we’re going to be able to influence any decision, it will still be controlled by this present administration.
PAUL STAINTON: The thing is though, if there’s not a new Leader, Marco Cereste’s in until 2015, isn’t he? You can’t get rid of him.
DAVID HARRINGTON: Effectively, if the vote goes that he remains Leader, yes.
PAUL STAINTON: So if you lose the leadership vote, or there’s not an amendment put to it, and somebody else steps in as well, if you lose that, it’s up to him whether the committee system comes in.
DAVID HARRINGTON: Exactly. And I can’t see councillor Cereste wanting to return to a committee system any time soon.
PAUL STAINTON: You need the votes of the LibDems. You need the Labour votes, don’t you? You need all the Independent councillors to vote, 29-28, to get your way. What would you say to the LibDems and the Labour councillors this morning, who’ve been moaning and moaning and moaning and criticising the present administration for months if not years? What would you say to them this morning?
DAVID HARRINGTON: What can I say? I just think as Leaders of the opposition groups they are letting their supporters down. I can’t honestly understand how they can justify to their electorate how they are going to move forward with this. As I say, I’d sooner defend my position now ahead of the game, as a Leader, to say I did all I could, but subsequently it’s down to all of the support, rather than keep saying to people well yes, I could have taken that advantage, but it wasn’t .. And that’s perfectly as I see it as simple as that. If the electorate, and there is a considerable number of the electorate do not like this administration, and obviously those people who voted for me, or other opposition groups, they will be asking us why didn’t you take that advantage. If that is not there and available , they’ll say to us, and I’m sure they will, why didn’t you take that advantage? And you’ll be on the back foot for ever more. And as time goes on, councillor Cereste will make sure that he will put a wedge, a quite clear wedge, between any accord that we try and do now. It won’t happen, because we’re moving into a crucial year this next year, ahead of a General Election. And the two main parties, which of course remain Conservatives and Labour, will polarise. And then it will become very messy. It will become very messy towards the end of this next year. And if we don’t get that bloodletting let out now, it will only get worse. And that won’t ne good for the people of Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: No, not considering there’s a £19 million black hole to sort out.
DAVID HARRINGTON: Exactly.

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